Speech of Dr. Herman Van Rompuy,
(The EU Japan Haiku Friendship Ambassador, Nara, January 15. 2017)

I'm going to Nara to receive the cultural prize of the Asian Cosmopolitan Awards attributed by ERIA because I consider it as an outstanding honour. This international award stresses the strong links between East Asia, Asean and the European Union, in particular the bond between Japan and Europe. Our relations are not only economic but they are build upon shared human values. Culture is often a more solid basis for a lasting relationship than only trade and investment.

Globalization is also cultural. We never in human history exchanged more information, emotions, thoughts, music, idols and role models than today. But closer contacts allow us also to know the best of our traditions, the core of our civilizations. Although we have a lot in common, we are living in a different culture. Each of our peoples have their own identity. We can be proud of our own cultural traditions but they have to remain open to other cultures. Een open mentality avoids to fall into nationalism, the expression of a closed identity.

It is the right time to emphasize the importance of friendship between nations. Japan and Europe turned the page of history each in its own way. Both we started seventy years ago a new phase in our history. I have the honour to have beeen appointed international Haiku ambassador for the Japan-EU friendship. Haiku as a binding character between our peoples. Haiku can play that role. That kind of poetry is indeed unthinkable in a climate of war, antagonism or polarisation. Haiku is embedded in harmony or in the longing for harmony. The season factor and its eternal cycle is a perfect expression of this harmony. Humans are a part of a cosmic order, transcending humanity. But at the same time it is a perosnal expression of a very personal observation and emotion. Haiku combines the universal and the particular. That's why it can easily become an international, a 'cosmopolitan' form of poetry.  East Asia, Asean, Japan and Europe have ancient traditions of literature. Haiku is one of the bridges.

A haiku stance is short. It reminds the 'tweet' in its briefness! In a world of haste haiku fits perfectly! In this way haiku is very modern. But haiku poetry is not the result of impatience or anger. It is the result of an encounter in nature or in daily life. The verses formulate this 'coming together'. It takes some time before we find the right words and the right music in the language. It is not an instantaneous writing as is a tweet. Haiku enhances an experience that otherwise would have disappeared in the stream of everyday life.

Haiku takes an effort. It necessitates discipline, especially if one wants to respect the traditional 5-7-5 rule or other ingredients of a haiku. In this sense it also is not 'modern'. Discipline is a form of respect. It is not a form of blind obedience. The poet respects the rules because it can bring him or her to better stances. It connects him to ancient masters who he admires. Rules can change of course. But haiku will be always something specific.

In todays world we need 'truth, goodness and beauty'. Haiku is about authentic experiences. Not about fake feelings. The poet never can be a bad man because he is looking at nature, its order and its beauty. We know that the world of plants, planets and animals is more complicated. Fear, life and death, are part of it. But never forget that there also is harmony and the dream of heaven. Our world needs dreams, of a better world. We never had it so good on average on a global scale. But in mature economies despair and unhappiness are dominant feelings. This irrationality can even become dangerous. Dreams are a counterpoison. Haiku can help to foster dreaming.

For all those reasons haiku can be a bridge between our two parts of the planet, each at the other ends of the Eurasian continent. The famous Russian Dostojevski once said that beauty will save the world. I think it has to be a combination of truth, goodness and beauty. Haiku can be one of the vehicles. I'm convinced that these arguments can still be added to those of the jury of the Asian Cosmopolitan Awards.

January 15. 2017 - Nara